Last year, Punkt. collaborated with Relational Design to present a course on Social Branding (the use of social media for marketing purposes). Part of the project involved the students swapping their smartphones for an MP 01 for a short time, and keeping a journal of their experiences.
Below are some stories from their diaries, and you can read more about the collaboration here.
I used an MP 01 and I survived. I definitely managed to keep in touch with people who count for me even without a smartphone.
I noticed that while writing texts with an MP 01 I added lots of “old school” emoticons, such as :) :* ;) , probably because recently I was really using too many emojis. While sending texts without those little faces I thought: Maybe those who read my text will think that I am enraged if I don't insert a smile or a wink at the end of the message?
I often think the same when someone sends me a text-only message: what kind of mood is she/he in? Why did he/she only write “hi” without any smile? Interestingly, with a phone call or vis à vis, I easily perceive the mood of my interlocutor, so what is the problem? Why do we need to insert visual elements in our texts to express our emotions? Perhaps exchanging texts is not exactly like having a real conversation, where gestures, tone of voice, body language are crucial for empathising, for understanding what our interlocutor is saying and what he/she wants to communicate.
How important in a conversation is the voice, the tone of the other person? Are emojis replacing feelings and emotions? Yes, maybe emojis are becoming a substitute for emotions, and the problem is perhaps that we phone or have a real-life chat too rarely. A resolution for me in the future, and good advice for the reader: talk more, send fewer texts!
“Hello! Starting from next week and for (at least) one month I will no longer use Whatsapp. You can reach me by the usual number via text or calls.”
Blue Icon. Sent. Done. I'm ready for the experiment.
As soon as I put the smartphone down on the couch, the answers start pouring. Result? Crash of the app.
Some are worried, some curious, some followed my suggestion not to answer, some are over the moon, enthusiastic.
But I felt slightly dizzy. The classic feeling that you experience in the mountains, on the edge of a cliff: the legs become shaky, the head gets lighter and the imagination runs wild. I become hypersensitive and the brain flies at a different speed.
But with the MP 01 in hand and ready for use, I also have another sensation, the one I only experience a few times a year when I travel abroad or go to the mountains, in “no service” areas.
The feeling of finally being alone, in touch with the world. The feeling of being in the world in present, real, immediate mode.
On these rare occasions we are no longer there for everyone, our availability is limited and depends on our will.
Our attention, which is always looking for new stimuli, finds its real dimension.
Yes, because what I'm feeling these days, after two years of smartphones, is the pleasure of a steady flow.
The days, hours, minutes flow in one direction, which is decided by my will: I call or write only if I have the desire to do so, or if I need something. People get in touch only for real necessities.
So the confusing buzz of instant messages goes off. My free time is free again, not dotted with short bursts of virtual conversation.
“Society, you're a crazy breed.
Hope you're not lonely, without me”
It’s been a long time since I listened to this song.
I did not save it on the smartphone, the iPod ended up long ago in the electronics paradise and I don’t like listening to music with 3G.
A paradox: I have earphones in my ears and I’m consciously in the present, but having the mobile phone on or nearby makes me feel like I have to look at it, to check.
And so, if I take my phone out of my pocket because a song is over, I’ll inevitably have a quick look at the rest: just in case someone sent a message, an email… My attention is taken away from the intense presence of the song. Crack, the crystal of “here-and-now” breaks.
In philosophy, being in two places simultaneously (a sort of spatial multitasking) is called schizotopia.
And so I retrieve an unlikely MP3 player from a box I did not even know I had. I upload a couple of songs, I put the earphones, I leave the smartphone at home, and get ready to go to Milan.
As soon as I get out of the door, I feel the vague dizziness of the other day. The world is there, in front of me. And I am in front of the world.
No distractions, no guilty feelings for not responding immediately, no philosophical schizotopia. Only me and the world.
And then I remembered Chris McCandless, in his blue school bus, surrounded by the sheer immensity of the world. I understand that, unlike then, today it is no longer necessary to travel to the end of the globe to start to breathe again.
Just leave the schizotopic leash on the couch to get a bit of balance, to find focus again :)
“And if the soul too, my dear Alcibiades,
is to know herself,
she must surely look at another soul”
Apparently, and it’s not me who says it, we are visual beings.
If you think about it, sight is the most active of the senses, the one that gives us more freedom.
It is through our eyes that we perceive what surrounds us and focus on the parts of the world that we deem interesting. It's the eyes that fill with colours. It's the pupils that rush from one face to the other in the subway, pausing on a unique detail in the flow of people.
In the eyes of the others we are able to recognize his/her mood, the sincerity of his/her words. The welling of a tear if the wrong word is pronounced, the rising of the sun to a kind sentence at the right time. In the eyes of people you can see the sun set and the clouds chasing each other.
Eyes are precious. The act of looking should be handled with great care.
And is constantly feeding them only with bright texts, with images flowing senselessly in the meagre space of a few centimetres an act of care?
What do we want to feed the mirror of our soul with? With other souls or with screens?
What do we want to focus our eyes on?
“A cosmic calm. People would find themselves
in panic and in distress and in the end
they would ask, praying, for grace”
Calls, texts, saving contacts, this is what the MP 01 does. For me it's enough.
But, above all, this device made me more open to relationships. As if I have found the courage to expose myself.
To understand what I mean, let’s think about something.
Imagine being in a completely new context, surrounded by strangers, and with a good margin of freedom (i.e. we are not forced to speak to anyone).
If it happened to you, what is the first thing you’d do? Would you launch into the throng? Would you try to get familiar with the environment?
Or after a few minutes, your hand would start looking for your smartphone?
Well, I reckon that the second case is the most common. And I think the brain is almost automatically following a defence instinct.
The smartphone becomes a sort of rescue boat from unease.
“I don't know what to do / I don't know anyone / I feel uncomfortable. Let me check if someone has written to me, always better than being alone and doing nothing.”
Unfortunately, this comforting automatism deprives us of the experience of feeling uncomfortable. “And why should this be a disadvantage?” Legitimate question.
My answer is that if we have the chance to feel uncomfortable, we also have the opportunity to summon the courage to get out of that feeling. It is from discomfort that comes courage.
Hiding in your comfort zone is not the solution. We risk depriving ourselves of the spirit of initiative without even knowing it!
“What we dream of is a restoration:
the return to the condition of the land of plenty,
where nothing is missing,
actually, everything is there.
In considering the relationship between man and technology, I feel close to the German philosopher, Gunther Anders.
The number of ICT devices has grown exponentially in recent years. At the same time, two categories that are part of our daily experience have transformed: time and space.
These lenses through which we see reality are turning into two new “technological” categories: immediacy as a new dimension of time, and coexistence as a new dimension of space.
Let me explain: the rhythm of human time is NOT the immediacy. This is a feature of computers and calculators.
We have to imagine computers, smartphones and tablets as extremely efficient people, for which time means slowness. Time is a real obstacle for them! Their ideal is complete immediacy.
Same holds true for space: even if we like the idea, omnipresence is not among the features of humans. We are made to move around and cover distances.
Being in a time other than immediacy and in a space other than “being everywhere” (which are features of ICT devices) is what allowed man to develop his greatest discoveries. The very ability to think and ponder is based precisely on this.
The result? Immediacy and (virtual) omnipresence limit our ability to think and ponder.
How can we walk the tightrope of the present without slipping in the continuous flow, in memories recorded in an endless gallery, in relationships which are measured in numbers? How can we fully exist in the present and consciously consider our future, parallel, simultaneous possibilities?
During my experiment of living with a Punkt. MP 01, I realized how the perception of time is extremely relative and variable according to the communicative eco-system in which we live.
The absence of notifications, news and connection – in the most telematic acceptation of this word – brought me to re-think of the tale of Alice in Wonderland. The narratives which accompany our childhood contain archetypical references that are the foundations of our vision of reality. Therefore, here it is, the fair haired girl, just in front of me, looking for the hurried rabbit with a clock in its pocket. Alice meets many characters, who will guide her through the discovery of the intricate relationship between Man and Time.
“If you knew Time as well as I do,” said the Hatter, “you wouldn’t talk about wasting it. It’s him.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” said Alice.
“Of course you don’t!” the Hatter said, tossing his head contemptuously. “I dare say you never even spoke to Time!”
“Perhaps not,” Alice cautiously replied: “but I know I have to beat time when I learn music.”
“Ah! that accounts for it,” said the Hatter. “He won’t stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock.”
(Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carrol)
Technology is a double-edged sword: the fire which warms you during the winter days can also hurt you. Which then is the safety line not to cross?
The digital revolution has definitely brought us apart from animals, and has given us hardware that allows us to use time as a completely modulated object. Everything can happen quickly, simultaneously, nearly automatically, thanks to technology.
But in truth, obsessive repetition runs the risk of depriving reality of its meaning.
“it is always time for tea”
The use of the web in its mobile version creates a double, triple, quadruple time exposure.
We can be here, in this very moment, and at the same time we can chat with a friend, write an email, tell someone wearing sunglasses with overexposed light on his face that we love his picture.
But maybe the key for a balanced existence is learning to be in the present, learning to care about time.
During my experiment with MP 01, I opened my laptop only at night and slowly checked all the daily messages. I loved the attention and time I could devote to write my answers, read the highlights, look at pictures.
I was not disconnected from the world, but I had the opportunity to understand the fragile point between being offline and its natural counterpart of online sharing, which needs care, like anything else.
If we start to consider time from a different perspective, that is to say, if we do not divide it into activities that we must accomplish urgently and that cannot be identified as parts of our well-being, we can see that every moment lies at the same distance from the centre. And every engine which builds our subjective clock is essential and therefore has to be cared for with the dedication which our presentself deserves.
I started this experiment by warning all my contacts that I would shortly leave my smartphone for the Punkt. MP 01.
I like the idea of being almost completely offline for a while. Honestly, technology fascinates me, especially for how it changes the way people live, how it creates new attitudes, situations, new ways to relate, with different points of view and perceptions.
Which technology device is better at all this than anything else?
It is the technological product with the greatest distribution in the world population. More or less everyone has a smartphone! How has communication been transformed and simplified? Here is the beautiful reportage on the relationship between migrants and smartphones by the photographer Patrick Witty for Wired.
This device is always with us, as if it were an extension of our body, we use it for almost everything. Through both hard and soft technology, it lets you take pictures, record movies, listen to music, watch your favorite TV shows, check email, credit cards, maps, etc. In China you pay almost everything by scanning QR codes from the display linked to online accounts without exchanging real money.
But the most serious problem in my opinion is the addiction to social networks.
They create a parallel dimension to life that deflects the physical observation from everyone and everything, creating a prevalence of online social life at the expense of real life.
If we looked up we would notice how many things we lose by staring too often at our display.
I use my offline time for outdoor sports, nature walks, reading, doing manual work, cultivating passions.
And now, it seems to me that this minimal-style phone, with comfortable buttons, essential in looks and functions, fits perfectly with my lifestyle.
During a break, after a phone call with a dear friend, I realize I have gained a lot of free time because I don't have notifications. So I decided to sketch an illustration for the MP 01. I started from an inspiring quote and translated it into an image.
MP 01, the constant companion of my offline days is stirring up nostalgic thoughts for the technology of the 80's and 90's. The design objects of that period have a unique appeal and provided essential tools. Of course, that kind of design had not yet reached today's levels of compactness and portability.
Finally, the MP 01 combines all these features.
Day 1 - 0 5 / 0 5 / 2 0 1 7
Technological Genealogy: from Offline to Online and Return
My first mobile was an old Ericsson (the one with the antenna and the flap); it was a gift for my first communion. Then I got a Siemens, if I remember correctly. The first one with a color display was definitely a Nokia, it took pictures too. Then I got another Nokia, but never the 3310, ever… In 2011 I had a BlackBerry and finally got access to the Internet. Then I had a short time offline with a secondhand Samsung, and finally I got The One. I lost it four times, always found it again. I usually keep it in my right-hand pocket, never in my bag, I can’t hear it there. I guess I’ve never turned it off.
I count to three: 1, 2, 3… Punkt.
Day 2 - 0 6 / 0 5 / 2 0 1 7
Visualize Me: Relationships in the Internet era
I sent you a text and you’ve never replied.
I wrote eleven hours and seven minutes ago and you haven't answered.
Who knows if you’ve ever visualized my message.
I won't be able to know it. That said, I’ve always been a promoter of free will, even as for those blue ticks. You won't be able to know it, anyway.
Day 3 - 0 7 / 0 5 / 2 0 1 7
Praise of the Voice Message
Do try it yourself. Try to come back to this damn compulsory 2002… Everything was going right! And then people decided that streets are made to walk along, always in crowds, always in a hurry, and they don’t even guess that I can’t write texts with my T9 so quickly. Stop pushing me! Stop, everybody! STOP!
Day 4 - 0 8 / 0 5 / 2 0 1 7
Where are You? Discovering the Recovered Time
And then yes, it happened. I got lost. Without maps, without GPS, without positions to hold on to, I got lost with the name of an old, dead patriot (address), the two of us together against the world. Then I found out that talking to strangers is not out of fashion yet. So you ask for directions and thank your new friends. Trust people’s kindness.
Day 5 - 0 9 / 0 5 / 2 0 1 7
The Pleasure of Doubting
You may fairly easily have noticed a peculiar feature in me. If you didn’t, I can explain: I am always right. They say there is no cure, you have to be accept me as I am. So, in order to show you I’m right I take my phone and I’ll ask Google whether… no. I still can’t do it. You'll have to keep your doubt. It has been a long time since… What a strange feeling: this peace, this silence, this pleasure…
The title seems a bit dramatic, but it's very truthful.
A permanent connection leads us to a greater isolation from real social life
After getting used to my Punkt. ‘dumbphone’, I could see a radical change in my relationships with friends.
The first response to social network isolation, to easy access and to an immediate answer to every problem was the feeling of uselessness.
But later on, the natural selection of friendships and the ability to manage their expectations made me value those people who really care for my opinion, my help, and can maybe even make a phone call.
LESS ONLINE MORE FRIEND QUALITY
“I was brought to my senses... I walked out this morning
It was like a veil had been removed from before my eyes
For the first time I saw the work of heaven
In the line where the hills had been married to the sky
And all around me every blade of singing grass...”
On my first day with Punkt. I was brought to my senses. No pixels to look at, no beeps to listen to… I spent a lot of time outside, and this time I didn't take pictures with my mobile phone or record some noise. I just was.
And there was smell.
There’s no smell on my smartphone so far. Still my nose is the thing to trust.
Will we ever record smells like we take pictures today?
Will smell ever come to smartphones? And conquer the last non-digitalized sense?
What should I do with my Punkt. phone? Call someone? Oh no… I hate to call! I always think I catch people in awkward situations when the least thing they want to do is talk to me. So I preferred to remain silent for a while, and I took a break from all phone-related things.
Smart phones are very good for people who don't like to make a call… I went to school with a deaf guy. He can't call. But he can send a message. Very nice. Technology can make life easier for those with a handicap. But – well, there's always a but…
Tonight when I came back and opened the computer – I had some mails and G+ was trying to get my attention… Oh, Marcia, you wanted a Quote of the Day – but already two days ago…! I completely missed this task, because I’m used to getting notifications from G+ via the app. Ha, it actually was the first time I felt really good about having missed something :) For once I had an absolutely watertight excuse (I'm usually not good at excuses). I take full advantage of this rare case :)
And there’s something else: I like gaps and we should probably all have more of them in our lives. How good it was to not worry all weekend long about a bright caption that might impress people! How good not to worry about documenting your day in a supercool way for Instagram! Thumbs up for gaps!
Today I was four people at the same time. All-inclusive: mum, nurse, environmental scientist, student. I’m honest and I admit that today, I used my smartphone. Here’s why:
Health insurance and vaccine data for my sick child?
in an app
Remote access to my computer at my place of employment?
through an app
Organizing student group work?
talking through an app
Finally drink a coffee in peace?
let my girls play with an app.
Yes, true , you are completely right: too many apps. Too much confidence in them.
And yes, absolutely, I could have started with a coffee and just been one person at a time.
Click click click.
Three times to get an ‘O’.
Wow this really feels retro. I see that I still have "quick-click" abilities from the nineties in my fingertips. With three clicks back to those times where mobile phones in Switzerland were called NATEL (Nationales Autotelefon).
Click click click.
And I observe a young girl next to me typing – she uses both hands… Strange abilities, evolution advances! And maybe musculoskeletal disorders too…
Going back to normal?
What's normal anyway?
I will miss the lightness and the nice touch of simplicity of the MP 01.
But I will be welcoming a few apps back.
Not using the internet, not having access to something that we take for granted…
How did we do things before? Planning a trip to an unknown place, a day in a new city, choosing the best road to take, the best places to visit, the best restaurants to eat in?
We are constantly sharing our thoughts, our photographs, our problems, hoping to have the widest possible consensus, waiting for a ‘like’ from a particular person, obsessively checking the notifications on-screen. A screen that in fact cannot protect us from ourselves.
How difficult is it to find a border between the things you need in order to be active and the things that need us to be activated?
Trying to live without that safety net is not easy, but getting lost in a new place, talking to strangers, framing a beautiful landscape or a pleasant event with our eyes only and not with the goal of saving everything on the mobile phone can be quite liberating.
After all, in the end it's us who decides what is 1MB, 1GB, 1kcal, 1g, 1kg, 1l or 1♥.
My digital detox week: an odyssey with Punkt.
A whole week without my iPhone 7 and with the new MP 01, courtesy of Punkt.
While I stare in awe at the beautiful packaging of MP 01, a question keeps haunting me: will I manage to get used again to a dumbphone? I've always lived surrounded by technology. Ever since I was little, every device, every technological gadget, arrived in our household soon after it was launched. But life is made of challenges and indeed the smartphone has eaten up part of my free time. It’s time to find out how addicted I am.
The first feeling I have after dragging my finger on the command to turn off my iPhone is darkness. Panic. The black MP 01 screen almost hurts my eyes. MP 01 is “just” a mobile phone – no instant messaging, no internet and no social networks – and this forces me to face a serious problem: I never liked long phone calls! It’s not fear, it’s not a social phobia, I don’t panic or feel anxiety. But I cannot bear the pain in my ear when I hold it for too long against the receiver, I can’t stand the tingling in the wrist, but above all I don't want to waste time in small talk. Obviously I use it for important news and I love hearing the voice of all the people I care for, but for quick short communication I have always preferred texts.
Yet, as days go by, the MP 01 becomes familiar and I’ve also regained speed with the classic T9 keyboard. At night, I devote some time to a good book before falling asleep. So this week I finished the novel I had started and I rediscovered the pleasure of wandering around with my camera. I’ll try not to abandon these good habits again. What I miss of the constant presence of my iPhone during the day is the ability to handle multiple tasks with a single device: mark an appointment on the calendar, search for an address on the map, book a plane ticket, buy something online, read an eBook, take pictures, take notes, and of course make phone calls.
Of course, this digital detox week was also fun, and I had lively discussions on the subject simply through holding my MP 01. But I keep believing, like Adorno, that progress is inevitable even if it produces critical situations. It is up to us humans to detect them, to avoid regression, and to overcome them by finding corrective actions.
Bye-bye MP 01... back to the future!
I’m not an addict, but I need to connect
I start using my Punkt. phone. It looks like an alien. What should I do? Who will I talk to? Who will contact me and who can I contact now that I do not have Whatsapp, Facebook, and nothing that belongs to the social media world? I spend a quiet morning, I go to work and there my boss stares at me with a strange look, almost offended… I explain that I do not have a cell phone with which we can communicate on Whatsapp and he continues to look shocked. He thinks it’s a challenge but accepts it. After work I go to the aperitivo with my friends, in the usual place. But even there, everybody looks at me strangely: “Giulia, what have you do been doing? We've been sending you Whatsapp texts since this morning and you don't answer!” I explain that I'm using the MP 01, they look at me perplexed, they do not understand. I wonder what will happen in the next few days.
Second day. A normal day, without any particular surprises, also quite “silent”, but it’s great to be isolated for a while. Then I finish my work, more rapidly than in the other days, and I go to the usual place, with the usual friends. I am particularly happy to see them and I ask lots of questions, curious to know how they spent the day, asking almost manically about every single detail. They start pulling my leg, joking about my dumbphone. Anyway, the evening goes well and then I go home.
This experience is about to end. When I arrive at work I finally realize it. “Today is the last day Giulia... From tomorrow you will always be available!”, the boss tells me. My friends also remind me, “Tomorrow you’ll be back in the normal world and stop behaving like a radical chick!” they tell me. What nonsense, I think... I've been on a short trip, a trip on a sailboat, where there is no service. I listened to the sound of the sea and enjoyed the warm sun. Now I go back home with greater awareness, the one you acquire during those journeys that remain impressed in your mind.
The internet has revolutionized our lives, no doubt, a change that has become even more apparent with smartphones.
For years, these devices have been giving us the opportunity to navigate the city with Google Maps, chat with an endless number of people with Whatsapp, share photos and experiences on Facebook, Instagram, etc… With the Punkt. mobile phone MP 01 I found out what the internet took away from me.
Walking in the streets without earphones I rediscovered the sounds of my city, the pleasure of greeting passers-by, listening to my breath during my morning jog, the chiming of the bells from the medieval belfry at noon, the sound of the wind.
The number of phone calls increased since it was much simpler to call than to write without a touchscreen. I felt infinitely more involved and closer to my interlocutor because I could hear his voice and perceive if he was angry, anxious or busy.
Not having the possibility to distract myself with the phone during the duller moments of my day made me consider alternatives, such as reading (which I usually leave for the evening) and calls to friends who I haven't heard from in a while. I rediscovered the pleasure of chatting on the phone and I realized that I have missed out on important news in their lives. One friend had found a job recently and had written it in a message that got lost amongst others.
The absence of Whatsapp and pings that demand my attention enabled me to concentrate on what I was doing and to postpone fun until after work. My concentration increased enormously, and my satisfaction too. In a single day I completed a translation job for an art gallery that would usually have taken me at least two days.
I start using the MP 01 mobile phone on Sunday, the quietest day of the week.
At first I have some doubts and instinctively unlock the device several times to check notifications: just a text from a friend, zero social notifications.
I accept the challenge and realize how much time I have to devote to myself.
Using this dumbphone makes me think about my addiction: I forgot the birthday of a cousin because I did not receive any notification from Facebook and I spent several hours on the phone with a friend instead of sharing with him the classic brief voice message on Whatsapp.
Since I’m missing Spotify and music in my headphones when I'm at the gym, I look around and exchange a few words with other guys, which does not happen when I'm in my own world with music. The evening spent with friends does not include “stories” or sharing photos on social media, but instead a healthy and pleasant conversation without distractions.
For reasons of force majeure, after four days I return to my smartphone.
As a social media addict I feel quite happy with myself. I get so many notifications as soon as I turn my mobile on that I immediately feel in jail. I'm a conscious prisoner.
My experiment with Punkt. MP 01 mobile phone lasted four days.
#senses #sight #tactile
On my first day I did everything by instinct, without transferring numbers or worrying about the consequences. It was like being rocketed a few years back in the past. I wasn’t used to the T9 automation, the smaller size and the lightness of the mobile phone. Finally I had a minimal, smaller display without catchy but misleading colours. I got back into the habit of feeling the click under my finger: the feedback is immediate and acts upon the feeling of touch, giving a very pleasant sensation.
I’m not nostalgic, I’ve always been interested in technological innovation, perhaps because of its ludic aspect, or maybe because I belong to that generation who witnessed to all the phases from the era of floppy disks to the advent of smartphones. It was like experiencing the magic you’d see in the movies as a child: conversing with a device as in Knight Rider (artificial intelligence is still not perfect, but it will be soon), or have information about everything, anytime, see and talk to people through a smartwatch, like James Bond.
No doubt technology, and especially smartphones, give us the opportunity to use a number and a variety of tools which is really quite amazing.
But three are the questions I’d like to dwell on, about the path we are taking and about what future scenarios might be like:
#distraction #smartvshuman #time
Going back to my experience, I must say that I did not particularly miss the lack of social networks, indeed I liked it: the perfect alibi to avoid being constantly available to everyone. I managed to concentrate more without distractions, but especially I managed to take break from work when it was right to do so, without being reachable any time or optimizing blank times with apps that might be useful. I admit that I missed listening to music while I was running.
#senses #tactile #smartvshuman
I often use utility apps, but I realized that doing everything through a screen cancels the use of other senses, eliminates gestures and reduces everything to visual feedback. A good example is Evernote, an app that I use quite often to collect images, links, reflections, things that can be useful, but above all are not public, only mine. (I usually think a lot, too much maybe – it’s a way to let off steam.) The solution was to take a small notebook: although more cumbersome, I rediscovered the relaxing and fulfilling feeling of putting my thoughts (with pen, watercolour and gestures that are only mine) on a sheet of paper I can touch. Technology is very useful and is part of our real lives, but I would love to interact with the world through all the senses. We are human. We have tactility.
I wrote this diary while visiting my home towns, Beijing and Tianjin, in China. I swapped my smartphone for a Punkt. MP 01 for seven days, and documented how I experienced everyday activities, things like going shopping, travelling by bus and train, car/bike sharing, financial transactions, getting the news, conversation at home, and food deliveries.
Like everywhere in the world, China is getting mobile, digital and high-tech, maybe even at a faster speed because of its growing population and people's desire to get rich and have a better life. But technology has its side-effects. People can now do more things better and faster than before, but have no time left to talk to each other. Our days are filled with lots of work and no time to enjoy life with our five senses. We strive for a better life, but achieve just the opposite when things are out of balance: our minds are concentrated on work and we are less focused on perceiving the present with our senses.
Wednesday 3 May 2017
Experiencing the Punkt. phone
My Mum used the Punkt. phone during her daily cleaning.
'How do you like it?' I asked.
'Not bad.' She smiled.
Thursday 4 May 2017
Online shopping versus real shops (necessity vs pleasure)
Online shopping is getting extremely popular in Beijing: people buy everything, from clothes and housewares to fresh food, basically all the products you can buy in a physical shop. Price and time are the main drivers of this trend – goods are of the same or even higher quality. For example, Jingdong (left) is one of the biggest online shops in China. (www.jd.com) Products are delivered in just a few hours.
Going to the local supermarket or buying products online are very different experiences. In the physical shop (below) the fresh aromas of fruit and vegetables always makes me want to stay longer. I can hear the vendors promoting their products with songs and cries. I can feel the energy of the crowd in the market. My five senses are all involved in this experience. For me it is a fun event and I feel invigorated afterwards.
My brother's family has a different shopping experience. They are very busy with their business and going shopping in a physical store is considered a burden. The smartphone and its apps make online shopping simpler and more convenient than ever before. Now they rarely go shopping in physical stores.
For my brother's family, the smartphone is a necessity whereas for me it is an option. That's why I'm (among very few) still using a Nokia old style keyboard phone, very similar to Punkt. phone.
Friday 5 May 2017
Travelling by bus with maps and wifi is better with a smartphone
#maps #apps #smart
Beijing has a population of 22 million people. The whole area is covered by 900 public bus lines and 17 subway lines. To travel by public transport from A to B in Beijing, you need to check out the route online before you go. If you change your mind on the way to Point C, you better have a smartphone to re-calculate the route for you. As you can imagine even the locals aren’t able to remember the complete transport network.
I experienced this route-change on my way home after visiting the doctor. I realized I needed to pick up some prints at a print shop. I asked three people for directions, but not surprisingly they didn't know either. I took a bus that went more or less close to the print shop and on the bus I used my iPad to re-calculate the new route with free WIFI.
Saturday 6 May 2017
Getting an intercity train ticket with a smartphone saves you half an hour
#time #speed #smart
To visit my brother in Tianjin, I needed to take the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity High Speed train. Tianjin is 135km southeast of Beijing and the train journey takes 30 minutes, with departures every 15-30 minutes.
To avoid the queue at the ticket counter, I tried three ticket machines first, but none of them accepted cash. So, then I went to the ticket counters. Out of ten counters, two only sold electronic ticket cards, one recharged the card, three only changed tickets, one is for special service… Only two counters with very long queues accepted cash. When I finally got my ticket, I looked at the time. It had taken me more than half an hour.
Once I arrived, my brother told me: “Next time give me a call. I’ll book it online for you. It will take you just one minute to pick it up at the ticket machine.”
e-bikes and shared cars are available only via apps
During my travels in Beijing and Tianjin I noticed that there were numerous bikes with the same design and bright colours. These are shared bikes, which are getting more and more popular in Beijing and Tianjin. In a few days I calculated that shared bikes make up for more or less 70 % of the bikes being used on the streets. To use bike-sharing services, you need a smartphone with an app. There are several companies that offer this service. The most popular is OFO, with yellow bikes.
Impact on me:
Since I didn't need a bike, I wasn’t badly affected by not having a smartphone, but if I were a regular cyclist living in the city it would have been different: bike-sharing is a convenient way to cover short distances, for example between home and the subway station.
Shared cars started spreading two or three years ago in Beijing and Tianjin, as in many cities around the world. In China Didi dominates the shared car market. Didi’s services include sharing personal cars, calling the nearest taxi and a company car service. Many of my friends take free rides on the street with the Didi app. Without a smartphone I just needed to wait a bit longer for the next available taxi to appear on the street. Depending on the location and time of the day, it may take up to 5-15 minutes longer. During rush hour it takes much more time, and is more expensive.
Sunday 07 May 2017
Smart pay with QR and discounts is widely used
#smart #apps #QRcode
During this recent visit to China I noticed that at almost every payment place there is a QR code displayed (right) for smartphone transactions.
Two most popular platforms are Wechat and Alipay.
Wechat is the Chinese communication APP with more than 600 million active users. Alipay is the mobile payment tool linked to Alibaba 1688, the online shopping platform. Other commonly used platforms are QQ, Naidu and Jingdong
Mobile payment is easy, simple, instant and safe Some shops provide their Wechat users weekly or monthly promotions, which you can only pay for with your smartphone. My mum, who is 77 years old, has just received a smartphone as a present from my brother. Now she can get supermarket offers for Wechat users.
Monday 08 May 2017
People don't read newspapers anymore and have less conversations
Back in 2013, Laoliang Observation (a popular Chinese talk show) discussed the social impact of smartphones 'Without Smartphone, can we survive?' Although it is originally a TV talk show, most people watch it on their smartphones.
The smartphone seems to have replaced every aspect of our nice old world. In Beijing and Tianjin I have hardly seen any newspaper or magazine stands in the last two years. At the same time, my parents and brother's families don't read the newspaper any more, which was once part of their daily routine. Now they read and watch everything on their mobile devices. My nephew wakes up and goes to bed with his smartphone. At home each family member is looking at his or her little screen and conversation is very rare. Like Laoliang said in his talk show “The longest distance is that I'm sitting next to you, and you are reading something on your smart phone”.
Tuesday 09 May 2017
Speedy food delivery in China
#Time #Speed #Balance #apps
Outside the building block where my mum lives, I saw a delivery man on a bike with the Baidu Delivery sign on it (right). Since I had never seen it before, I wanted to ask him for some information about the service. He even didn't notice me and rushed through the building like a bullet.
When I mentioned this to my brother, he explained that delivery men from Baidu need to deliver food from restaurants within 30-35 minutes after the customer submits an online order on his or her smartphone. They would get a bad KPI if delivery is delayed.
Then we discussed how speed and food can go well together and how it affects health not only for customers, but also for delivery workers and cooks in restaurants. The debate didn't reach a conclusion but an acknowledgement: “When there is a need, a service is invented to satisfy it. In big cities like Beijing and Tianjin, there are many working people who want to eat quality food in a short time. Restaurant delivery services meets this need.”
Here is an article about the top food delivery apps in China. 6 Delivery Apps to Keep you Full in China